Viewing the Olympics Outside of the US

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I recently returned from 10 days in Australia, which pretty much coincided with the beginning of the Olympic games in Rio. So, I’ve missed out a bunch on NBC’s coverage, and the complaints about it. But, I got to see how the Games are covered in another country, which is always interesting.

Clearly, the coverage in Australia is different than what we have come to expect in the US. I didn’t go in expecting it to be the same, after all the audience is different. But still, I found a few interesting things:

  1. Aussie commentators clearly root for Australian athletes. It’s not that US commentators don’t, but they have been inundated with the “no cheering in the press box” mentality and at least try to be understated about it. Australians feel no such compulsion. They are proud of their athletes, even when they don’t win. Seriously, I watched an amazing interview with a swimmer who finished 5th, but set a personal best time, where the interviewer was legitimately excited for her and they celebrated together. On NBC, there would have been no such interview with an athlete who didn’t even medal.
  2. There were way fewer “features” in Australian coverage. It was pretty much sports, with a little bit of fluff when there was an interesting story about an Aussie. There is no Australian equivalent to Bob Costas in the Olympic coverage.
  3. If an Australian is competing, especially for a medal, you will get to see the entire thing. Doesn’t matter the sport, an Australian competing was the determining factor in terms of fan interest. Seriously, I got to see the entire gold medal match in women’s trap shooting, on Channel 7, not some far-flung cable channel, because an Australian was competing. Granted, the US has many, many more competitors competing at that level, so it’d be hard for NBC to do the same, though maybe with a bit less Bob Costas they could squeeze in a few? 😉
  4. Everything is tape delayed, and no one cares. It’s the norm for Australia. Seriously, trying to watch US Sports leagues, or the English Premiere League pretty much means not seeing anything live because of the time difference anyway, and a lot of people down under follow those leagues pretty closely. Not to mention that weekend Rugby and Aussie Football games are generally replayed during the week too, for those that missed them over the weekend, and knowing who wins is irrelevant to the enjoyment. I don’t think this is a concept Americans understand at all.
  5. Matthew Dellavedova is a freaking national hero in Australia. They love them some Delly. To be fair, they also love Andrew Bogut, Patty Mills and the rest of the Boomers, but the love for Delly is a bit shocking given the usual NBA coverage of him.
  6. Speaking of the Boomers, every national team has a nickname. (Hell, everything in Australia has a nick name, i.e. Macca’s) Learn them if you want to keep up with the coverage, otherwise you won’t know what they mean when they tell you the Opals were upset, for example. (Women’s Basketball)
  7. Australians have an appreciation for the best athletes in the sports that they follow closely. Yes, Australians want to do well, especially at swimming. But their love of that sport means they absolutely recognize how amazing both Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky are. One of the few features they did have was a highlight package of Phelps’ 24 gold medals, and during one the women’s finals, the announcers before the race fully admitted that Ledecky was going to win and probably set a World Record, so they were going to pay closer attention to the race for Silver and Bronze and how the Australians were doing. They also explained that fans should appreciate how dominate Ledecky is and how insane it is that no on thinks she even could lose the race. (She didn’t, she won by a wide margin.) Usain Bolt was in the same category on the track.

All in all it was interesting to get a little view into how a smaller country views the Olympics and how it is covered. It was a fresh perspective from the usual, cynical, American view of the Games. I dare say I even watched more coverage there than I would have had I been home.

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